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Man Alive!: A Novel Hardcover – September 3, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (September 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374202311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374202316
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #757,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Owen Lerner, on his annual beach vacation with his wife, twin sons, and teenage daughter, is feeding quarters into a parking meter when he is struck by lightning (“He is white-hot as well as deeply quenched by the singed, syrupy fluid of his surround”). The randomness of the event and the sudden glimpse of mortality throw the Lerner family into a tizzy, and their lovely, sheltered life is suddenly cracked wide open. Will and Ricky, college juniors, are completely waylaid, with Will addicted to pills and casual sex, while Ricky is enmeshed in an unhealthy relationship with his professor and her husband. Meanwhile, younger sister Brooke becomes involved with an abusive boyfriend, and their mother, Toni, feels as if the husband she knows and loves has disappeared, as Owen, once a respected child psychiatrist, becomes obsessed with all things barbecue. Zuravleff (The Bowl Is Already Broken, 2005) is an exuberant writer with a sharp sense of humor, and if Owen’s recovery is a bit too protracted, her satiric jabs (at Whole Foods, among other targets) and joyful wordplay offer plenty to savor. --Joanne Wilkinson

Review

“Above all, this is a family novel for smart people; the smarter you are, the better you’ll like "Man Alive!" by Washington writer Mary Kay Zuravleff . . . What makes this book so terrific? Certainly the lofty reach of its subject matter and its cleverly delivered information about mythology, robotics, etc. But mostly, it’s Zuravleff’s masterful use of language, particularly dialogue. Each character cries out to us, demanding attention, recognition. A whole family, not just the burned, bruised Dr. Lerner, demands to be seen as human beings — alive!”  —Carolyn See, The Washington Post

“A lightning bolt to a parking meter certainly packs a punch, but so does every sentence and scene of this exuberant novel. Mary Kay Zuravleff writes so well—with such wit and compassion and wry intelligence—that she can make the daily, domestic life that follows Owen Lerner’s encounter with the transcendent as electrifying as the lightning strike itself. A suburban marriage, a young romance, gymnastics, brain chemistry, backyard barbeque, wherever Zuravleff aims her keen eye, something transformative happens, the way a thunderbolt turns sand to glass. Man Alive! is vividly alive and breathing. A sparkling book.” —Alice McDermott, National Book Award-winning author of Charming Billy

“Random happens, as Mary Kay Zuravleff ably demonstrates in this witty and engaging novel about a psychiatrist struck by lightning. Man Alive! chronicles the tensions and resentments that pull a family apart in the wake of a freak accident, and the lingering affections and connections that ultimately keep them together.” —Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Little Children

“There's nothing like a lightning strike to make you reasses your life, as Owen Lerner and his wife and kids learn the up-close-and-personal way. Novelist Mary Kay Zuravleff dissects family life with great heart and rapier wit.” —Parade

“The scenes and dialogue jump off the pages of this novel. Man Alive! is electric.” —Huffington Post

“[Zuravleff] captures both the humor and pain of family life and the fluid nature of its alliances.” —Library Journal

“A compelling story, beautifully written, about a family faced with a crisis, given a strikingly original spin by a gifted novelist.” —Shelf Awareness

“Zuravleff (The Bowl Is Already Broken), recipient of the American Academy's Rosenthal Award and the James Jones First Novel Award, creates a family whose members are forced to come to terms with mortality, reality, love, and their place in the family structure. She captures both the humor and pain of family life and the fluid nature of its alliances. Highly recommended.” —Library Journal

Man Alive! is all pleasure, even as the Lerner family suffers acutely. Mary Kay Zuravleff’s novel delivers the particular pleasure of the thing perfectly described.  This is a book to share, reading sentences aloud to marvel at—how’d she come up with that!  How does she know so much! How can she be so funny, and then so poignant, one, two, punch. The Lerner family is a family to remember—and to raise a glass to every time you grill outdoors—cheers to the amazing and fabulous Owen Lerner, and to his creator.” —Jane Hamilton, author of A Map of the World

“I really like these people and I want to go to a barbecue at their house. This is a novel of equal parts wit and heart, edge and deep warmth, hands open with hope for humanity alongside a firm foot still in reality. A terrific treat.” —Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and An Invisible Sign

Man Alive! is a vibrant book, and complex, buzzing with the rhythm of life the way we live it. Mary Kay Zuravleff is masterful as she dissects the collective consciousness of a family, with all its tangled bonds and arbitrary isolation.” —Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Dogs of Babel


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Customer Reviews

I look forward to the author's next book.
Carol
The narrative is laced with beautiful writing and fine humor.
Link
The twist and turns leave you unable to put the book down.
Jenn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alan A. Elsner VINE VOICE on December 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This absorbing novel begins when child pschychiatrist Owen and his family are packing up to go home after a summer at their beach home. This family seems to have everything - two successful professional parents, two bright sons at elite colleges and a 16 year-old, star gymnast daughter. Suddenly,Owen is struck by lightening and the whole facade is tested as never before.

Incidentally, the description of the lightening strike, and the writing throughout, is nothing less than superb. Owen has a near-death and transcendental experience. As he struggles to recover, mentally and physically,it is clear to him - and it becomes clear to the rest of the family, that he has deeply changed and will not be the same man ever again. This puts enormous pressure on his wife, Toni, and each of the kids. The author is immensely skilled in portraying the world through the eyes of all of her characters, each one in a convincing way.

Owen wants to recapture, somehow, the overwhelming feeling he experienced during the strike, which opened his eyes to a world beyond the mundane, everyday existence the family had grown used to. Toni wants her husband back, the kids are thrown off kilter by the loss of stability in the family.

Owen becomes obsessed by cooking meat and constructs his own BBQ pit in the backyard. He even buys a chicken coop and gets a weird tattoo. He's become weirdly selfish and irresponsible. The family is collapsing around him. Will thy pull together enough to survive? No, things are not going back to where they were - but can they find a new way to move forward?

I recommend this book fair its insights, its writing, wonderful characters and a moving exploration if what holds families together.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tamar Walsh on November 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book, Mary Kay Zuravleff reveals an intuitive understanding of the fragility of family relationships and the fundamental roles that we acquire and sometimes find difficult to change. A lightning fast shift in the family hierarchy sets off a domino effect and illustrates the lengths that one family must go through to break free of their established identities in order to take back control of their lives both within and outside the family.
I can't adequately express how much I loved reading this book. Mary Kay does not pass judgment or dwell in moral platitudes but cleverly demonstrates that there's a little dysfunction in everyone. Sometimes it takes a bolt of lightning to bring it out to the forefront but it's always there sizzling beneath the surface. We all have taken a step back at one time or another and recognized imperfections that were once imperceptible. Ultimately, this family had to find new ways to support each other and find its new center.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Knight on April 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book was a book club selection. At first blush I wasn't so sure. A man struck by lightning? But it didn't take long to get hooked and appreciate the subtleties a 'freak' moment of nature causes.

The author writes beautifully, particularly dialogue. She raises questions about what is 'normal', family and individual coping mechanisms, and implications for the future while trying to grapple with the present. I particularly liked the Owen character as he evolves and comes to grips with his new and liberating reality.

The read is a good and engaging one. I will read another book by this author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By gary m zizka on September 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
And she does it with marvelous wit and word-play. I've read her two previous novels, which were great, but "Man Alive!" Is an extraordinary achievement. Well worth a read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carolivia Herron on March 22, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I'm astonished by how well you match the perfectly logical inner speech of Dr. Owen Lerner with how illogical his spoken words sound to listeners (and this reader!). I kept wishing I could turn to you and ask you, "But how did you find out what he was thinking when he said that, did you ask him?" And then I remember that you made it all up. That's magnificent thought-word tracing in fiction.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Neel on March 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mary Kay brings us into the lives of her characters where we see ourselves and others, but we are left to ponder what is really going on. Her writing is very carefully crafted to let us go deeper and deeper into layers of meaning. A very good read but also a book I keep turning over in my mind.

SPN
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Format: Kindle Edition
Our book group read the two previous novels by this author so I was looking forward to her new novel, Man Alive. I pretty much read it in one sitting - I was bewitched by the characters! Mary Kay took a typical Bethesda, MD family and threw at them a weird random event - the dad was struck by lightning while they were on vacation in Rehobeth Beach. The resulting story is all at once beguiling, sad, comic and quirky - a MUST READ - especially if you have teenagers and live in the D.C. metro area!

The author came to our book group and what fun was that! She may come to your book group too if you email her at [...]

Mary Kay will be on the Kojo Nnamdi show on December 12.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Terence Winch on September 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Man Alive! is a fast ride through contemporary America's psychic landscape that I didn't want to see end. A psychiatrist is struck by lightning, an all too rare occurrence, and what happens next to him and his wife and children is at the heart of this story, one told with a powerful mix of creative energy and insight. And also humor---Zuravleff is a very funny writer. Her humor, however, never detracts from her masterful ability to take on the intimate complexities of family life with genuine compassion.
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